February is a month of love, but how often do you nourish your relationship with yourself? We’ve spoken to our favorite self-care gurus about their favorite ways to boost their self-love: you deserve your own attention as much as anyone else.

Today we speak with nutritionist Aimee Hockett on how we can use our relationship with food to improve our sense of self-love.

Splendid Spoon: Hi Aimee! What led you to be a nutritionist?

Aimee Hockett: I’ve been cooking since I was young. When I was 3, my favorite food was broccoli! I always knew I wanted to do two things: create art and cook food.

My mom’s an amazing cook. She taught me to experiment and have fun in the kitchen. When college applications came around I initially wanted to attend culinary school or do an undergrad in nutrition, but I chose not to. I didn’t want to be married to a certain career path. I studied anthropology and philosophy, but the desire to help people and cook food remained.

After college, I started to deal with health issues and felt lost trying to figure out my career path of choice. I decided to do my masters in nutrition. I loved it as it combined my strengths and loves: art, cooking and science. This career path fulfils me. I honestly love my job.

SS: How has your relationship with food changed your sense of self-love?

AH: I wasn’t a healthy eater growing up. I ate my vegetables and didn’t dislike healthy food, but I gravitated towards junk. When I was bored or stressed, I binged. I’ve now changed the way I eat and it’s transformed my life: choosing to eat well is an act of self-love. I feel happier and healthier just knowing that I can make myself delicious and healthy food to support my nutritional needs.

SS: How do you use food as a form of self-care?

AH: Meal prep feels like self-care to me. I take the time to make sure my food provides me with everything I need, and to create more opportunities for delicious meals. There’s nothing more nourishing than a dish which is so yummy and healthy that it feeds body, mind, and soul.

SS: What are your go-to self-care rituals?

AH: I always schedule one day a month as my self-care day, a day with zero plans and nothing to do. I have a lot of hobbies so sometimes that day becomes active, but often I spend it watching movies, cooking, eating, and doing art. Also, once a week I have a slow morning, which involves tea, a face mask, and a hearty breakfast.

SS: How can we tune into our bodies to better understand what they need?

AH: This question is the foundation of my practice as a nutritionist. Our bodies tell us what we need: the quality of our hair, skin, nails, digestion, mood, pain levels, etc. all reveal what nutrients we need more or less of. For years, I didn’t understand that some of my health concerns like brittle nails, acne, and anxiety were related to a lack of certain vitamins and minerals.

I advise people to be mindful when they complain or notice something off in their body. For example, if you wake up and feel inexplicably irritated, that usually means you’re lacking something. Even things as common as dandruff or dry skin can mean that.

I find that social media muddles our ability to recognize our own signs and symptoms. We’re so caught up in what other people do to stay healthy that we get distracted from our body’s own voice. It’s important to step back and take a moment to consider what we need. The human body is a great communicator if you give it a chance to be heard.

SS: What foods do you turn to when you need to get grounded?

AH: My favorite comfort food is chocolate, tea, and sweet or high-carb foods. However, when I’m feeling stressed I try focus on foods that help me manage the symptoms. Fresh juices, leafy green vegetables, hearty carbs like brown rice, lots of fluids, and warming spices all calm and center me. I also prioritize mindful eating as it helps me feel calm and centered.

SS: What do you do to remind yourself you’re safe and supported when you feel stressed or anxious?

AH: The most important thing is to let your loved ones know when you need to feel safe and supported. I struggle with this: I’m hard on myself and don’t always share what I’m going through. I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety and always have to remind myself that I’m going to be okay and it won’t last forever.

Food plays an important role in this: I tend to eat unhealthy or not eat enough when I’m dealing with a heavy heart and mind. Appetite changes with mood: I have to be more aware and forgiving with myself when I’m feeling down to make sure I get what I need. Asking for help from my partner makes me feel supported and encourages me to make the healthy meals that help me heal and find that safe, grounded balance.

SS: When do you feel most at peace?

AH: I feel most at peace when I’m cooking or painting. They fulfil me and help reset my mind.